Talking with Boys and Girls Winners of 75th Ancient Olympiad

Olympia Stadium -- Peloponesse, Greece. [ July 27, 2021 AD - - > July 27, 479 BC ] for CT MileSplit

MagicalSports Time Traveler:  Okay, we're back twenty-seven hundred years ago to catch up again with Xenopithes of Chios and a young lady who due to Ancient Greek Sports Federation rules we will call Nikephora (Victory Bearer) of Sparta, each of whom captured the win in the stadion sprint in 480 BC at the 75th Olympiad for the boys and girls respectively. Xenopithes earned his wreath on the third day of the Olympiad, the feast day, and Nikephora got hers in the associated Heraean Games here awhile before the men's games. MagicalSports TimeTraveler was there of course back then to catch them both for a chat after their big wins. Greetings again!

Xenopithes:  Cheers, or as we say, kaire polla!.

Nikephora: Welcome back, chaire!.

MS TT:  It's been a wild time for you both. Last we talked a year ago when you were winning your laurels, King Xerxes and his Persian juggernaut had just marched into Greece and overcome Leonidas's 300 guys at Thermopylae and burned down Athens. Now a year later after his navy got dunked at Salamis and then Mycale and his army got dusted off at Plataea, Xenopithes your cities on the isle of Chios are free of Persian rule and Nikephora your Spartans are riding high. Were either of you thinking that last year's Olympiad would be cancelled due to the invasion?

Nikephora:  Never. The gods would have been furious with us. Nothing can stand in the way of the Games and our sacrificial offerings to Zeus and Hera and their family.

Xenopithes:  Yes, our sports are sacred. Divine harmony would be upset if our cities didn't get the chance to have our men pound each other to pulps in the boxing and wrestling rings. And of course there's the pankration bouts where everything is allowed except eye-gouging and biting. Strangling your foe is fine, and finger-crushing is good too. This all ensures that we have tough warriors who can beat foes like the Trojans and Persians.

MS TT:  We here in the future are now holding Games that had to be held up for a year because of a widespread plague, and the site is now being blasted by horrible storms, athletes are living in lonely isolation, and no one gets to watch them compete.

Xenopithes:  That is all very strange, and you should check with your omen-readers, but it sounds like Apollo and Poseidon are angry with you and should be placated. We have plagues raging through here all the time and it doesn't stop the games, and why compete if nobody gets to cheer you over the finish line and join the victory celebration?

Nikephora:  And no conditions could be worse than what we suffer through at Olympia. If you survive the camps that have no toilets and almost no water during the height of summer in the midst of a scorched scrub land filled with hordes of biting flies, you indeed are made of heroic stuff.

MS TT:  You two competed in the stadion sprint that at a little under 200 of our meters for the boys and maybe 30 meters less than that for the girls is one of the only two shorter running events that along with the 400 meter men's diaulos have a similar event in our Games. Tell us about that. What was the contest like and how do you dress to compete?

Xenopithes:  Dress? What do you mean? We're Greeks and we guys run totally naked, and when you have a physique like mine, you show it off. Rub down your muscles with olive oil, jump and kick through your warm-up exercises, step up to the starting gate, and as soon as the rope in front of you snaps down you're flying off through the sand and earth to win the wreath for eternal glory. Our Games poet Pindar wrote a beautiful ode about me, a statue of me is in the Altis ceremonial precinct, and now I'm ready to enjoy a life of free meals and front-row seats at the theater. All honors to my patron god Poseidon, and may our renowned Chios-born poet Homer send up an ode from the netherworld to glorify my win. 

Nikephora:  We girls wear kind of a short guys' chiton dress with the right breast exposed Amazon warrior style to free up the arm in case any danger arises and we need to throw a javelin. And our stadion race is a little shorter because the officials say our strides aren't as long. Whatever! But I won my wreath, got my honors set up in the Altis, and made all the proper sacrifices to our lady Artemis, patron of all Spartan girls. Frankly, Xenopithes wouldn't have stood a chance against my fleet feet last year, and I wouldn't have been chasing after golden apples in a contest like Atalanta. And by the way, if you want to see the best contests in the world, come to a Spartan festival and watch our guys do their war dances, and we all do the bibasis butt-kicking gyrations. Our concerts are also the best. Apollo always smiles on our voices.

MS TT:  Okay, now what about the future? Xenopithes, will we see you back for the men's races in 476 BC, and maybe trying a longer event like the dolichos, which to our fans here is about 5K, or the hoplitodomos where you run 400 meters bearing a heavy helmet, shield, and leg guards, or maybe the pentathlon that combines the sprint, long jump, discus, and javelin with a wrestling contest at the end of the day?

Xenopithes:  I'm sticking with the stadion. Running long distance races like the dolichos is for crazy guys who are famous for falling down dead when they finish. Wearing a helmet in the Olympian heat is also crazy, and that pentathlon wrestling bout is just a way to get a broken heel, like Achilles. But I'm attending all the other big games like the Nemean, Pythian, and Isthmian that pull in the top athletes from all over Greece and our cities in Italy and the Aegean isles. I'm working hard in the gym, and my trainer says I'm sure to win the big prizes. Can't let hubris get me carried away though. The gods might change me into a cricket or cyclops, or even worse, strike my name from the records.

MS TT:  And no thoughts about becoming a charioteer or trying your hand at that new mule-cart racing event?

Xenopithes:  Ugh! That will not last for long, and you don't have to be the oracle of Delphi to predict that. I'm not into the horses.

MS TT:  Hate to tell you, but at the 211th Olympiad a ruler named Nero from that upstart little city over in Italy called Rome will be allowed to declare himself the winner of three different chariot races even though he kept falling out of his cart, and he will also declare himself the winner of the heralds, tragedy-writing, and lyre-playing contests. Nero was also supposedly a hot fiddle player, but I guess you would say that the gods disposed of him with divine justice.

Xenopithes:  I'm glad I won't live to see that happen to our Games. That is, as long as the gods don't turn me into an immortal cricket.

MS TT:  Nikephora, now that you have piled up your share of the victor's wreaths, we hear you've got one more big contest back home and then it's off to wedding vows with a champion Spartan charioteer. Tell us about that and whether you'll miss the Games action since as a married woman you will not be allowed into the stadium to watch the contests.

Nikephora:  We'll see about that. Men don't usually have a clue about what we women are up to. Our Spartan guys are smart enough to allow their wives to control the household because as our girls say, "We Spartans are the only ones who give birth to real men." And my daughters will be trained up at the gyms in all the sports and arts just like I was, and they will be earning their wreaths in a while at the Heraean Games. A local seer even told me that one of my granddaughters will be the first woman to win a wreath in the men's contests at the 96th Oympiad as the owner of the victorious tethrippon chariot team, and then she'll repeat at the 97th Games. And if you think you can keep a Spartan princess from watching her horses win, you don't know us Spartan women.

MS TT:  Good to hear that things were a little better than we knew for you. When we got our so-called modern Games going again after an interlude of 15 centuries, the organizer said that having any women's events would be "impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect." The female athletes quickly forced the men to allow a few token contests like croquet for them, but it was a long battle and needed the immense popularity of the Women's World Games a century ago to force the Olympics committee to include women in any somewhat major way. Even then the Olympic leaders worked hard to toss the women back out.

Nikephora:  Were they barbarians? You should have called in our Spartan girls to deal with those monsters.

MS TT:  Things have gotten better, and we have about 150 events for women in our Olympics now. Though we don't have chariot races anymore, women do get to throw the javelin and other implements of destruction. You'll also be happy to know that at least three of our Connecticut boys and girls teams call themselves the Spartans in honor of your city.

Nikephora:  Tell their boys that they better get carried off the field on their shields if they lose. Our Spartan name is not to be shamed by weak efforts.

MS TT:  We will warn the guys from Amity that they need to leave it all out on the track. Thank you both for talking with us again, and we'll let you go because we know it will take a long time to get back home.